Boeing on knowledge management

The Boeing newsletter for October 2007, Frontiers Online, has a cover story on knowledge management.  Several people mentioned this a couple weeks ago, and it has been sitting in my to-be-read pile.

Boeing is working to protect the knowledge assets residing within its employees. The company's goal is to foster an environment where knowledge and the strength of its culture can be leveraged quickly to empower an adaptable, agile work force and improve productivity.

The full story is a PDF, Get our heads into it by Debby Arkell.  (I am not completely sure it will be available permanently.)  Here's the blurb from the PDF:

Each Boeing employee has job-related knowledge. Here’s what steps the company is taking to manage and share this collective information—and use it as a competitive advantage.

How does Boeing define knowledge management?

Knowledge management, loosely defined, is a disciplined, holistic approach to using expertise effectively for competitive advantage. At Boeing, knowledge management is made up of a comprehensive system of processes, tools, methods and techniques that enable employees to capture and share information effectively.

To me, this is an overview of a lot of efforts that are happening at Boeing.  The good news is that they are recognizing the importance of knowledge sharing and creating an over-arching view to what they are doing.  They even provide the reader a nice list of efforts: communities of practice, video capture, best practices, forums, mentoring, even wikis.


7 Comment(s)

reasonable robinson said:

Looks like Boeing are implementing a typical Neo Modernist knowledge management approach that is founded upon a managerialist version of the organisational learning philosophy. In other words 'we need to control, measure, and create a knowledge management environment' Additionally the seem to 'see' this KM as a technically driven process. All of these notions should be contested. Knowledge, Know What and Know How and the process of Knowing are as much the asset of the employed as the employee and as such should be discussed in a negotiated context and not simply 'captured' to secure competitive advantage. Additionaly merely identifying, storing and distrubuting 'knowledge' cannot of itself ever ensure competitive advanatge. This is simply a fadland management mantra that is delusional in its expectations.

jackvinson Author Profile Page said:

Thanks for your comment, RR.

The issues you've identified are right up there in my mind with the fallacies of "enterprise knowledge management" as promoted in the 1990's. While some of that is happening in the Boeing example, I could also see a lot of opportunity for them to move beyond this view of KM and into a view where people (the employees) are encouraged to have more control over the process.

Jerry Ash said:

Hi Jack.

Great find on Boeing. I'm currently working with Pauline DeGard, knowledge strategist at Boeing, on a case report for the December/January issue of Inside Knowledge magazine. By the way, I've given it the working title of "Chasing the Vapor Trail".

What's happened at Boeing, like many companies, is that the advent of personal computing has fractured the organizational database and the company's critical knowledge is now scattered among personal computers and in a plethora of formats. Today's social network approach to decision-making takes place to a great extent in email with documents stored as attachments.

Compounding the problem is what Paulette DeGard describes in Star Wars language as the changing of the guard from "Masters" to "Padiwans" as the graybeard retire and young apprentices take their places.

Paulette and her team have done an amazing job of pulling existing knowledge and information together and that's what my story is all about. It will be in the December/January issue (my first as the new managing editor).

Congratulations on being on top of things!

Jerry Ash
Managing Editor, Inside Knowledge magazine
Founder/manager, Association of Knowledgework

Jim Coogan said:

The problem with such a short article is that people can get the wrong ideas based on very small amounts of information. KM at Boeing is far from technology centric. There was only one slight error in the article. We do not define KM loosely. It is defined as a disciplined holistic approach to effectively utilize expertise for competitive advantage. And what we mean by this is that it starts and ends with people. What we practice, and have done so for over 14 years, is a very people centric form of KM.

Jack Vinson said:

Thanks for jumping into the conversation to correct that misinterpretation. Given the brevity of the article and all the efforts mentioned, I am not surprised that people could get the wrong impression.

Stacey said:

Thank-you for sharing good information on your company. It is really a big good comapany for a opportunity for a career. I'm just a student at University of Phoenix. I'm in Mgt 330. Just doing a good report.

Stacey Gish
University Of Phoenix
Omaha, nebraska


CL said:

@Jim Coogan, Yup, it is all about the people in the end. No matter how technologically advanced our society becomes, it is people who do the work or make the things that do the work.

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